Uncle Vanya | Chicago Shakespeare Theater | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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To paraphrase the old army slogan, this may be the hardest show you'll ever love. The Maly Drama Theatre performs Anton Chekhov's classic study of disillusionment in the original Russian, with supertitles flashing an English translation--which has got to be distracting even to those audience members who can understand what the actors are saying. The rest of us are condemned to a vertical version of ping-pong eyes: up and down, up and down. For over three hours. And yet, ultimately, the inconvenience matters not at all. Gorgeous and sharp, deep, funny, and sly, Lev Dodin's staging bucks all the cliches that have developed around this tale of smalltown gentry whose orderly, work-centered lives are thrown up for grabs when the family idol, Professor Serebriakov, comes to stay and brings his beautiful young wife, Elena, with him. Among other things, the production reimagines Elena and Serebriakov, who are so often treated as little more than triggers for the other characters' angst. Ksenia Rappoport's Elena is a vivid, contradictory soul in her own right. And, in an absolutely brilliant break with the past, Igor Ivanov makes the professor . . . human. --Tony Adler

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